Dear Ann Cannon • I have a friend whose three adult children are very successful. They did well in school. They have impressive careers. They married happily. This friend is enormously proud of her kids — as well she should be. Whenever we get together, however, the conversation always ends up being about her awesome kids, which is hard for me because while I love my children, some of them are struggling right now. And I mean REALLY struggling.
I’ve started to avoid this friend, which is sad because we’ve known each other for years and have a lot of positive history together. Worse, I’ve started to hope her kids will fail at something — anything! — which is totally lame of me. My question is this: How can I change my attitude? How can I be happy for my friend’s kids instead of feeling so resentful?
— Ashamed of My Attitude
Dear Ashamed • Even if your own kids weren’t struggling right now, you may still find your friend’s tendency to make it all about her children hard to take. Most people have limits when it comes to listening to others brag (humble or otherwise) about their kids, right?
Frankly, I don’t think you should feel too guilty about secretly wishing your friend’s children will fail at something. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you a human person. For now, I’d accept the fact that you feel this way, realizing that feelings are subject to change. In the meantime, you can certainly act happy for your friend’s kids which is a good and gracious thing to do. Express interest and support. Treat them the way you’d want people to treat yours if the situation were reversed.
As for your friend ... well, she probably isn’t even aware that she’s being so overbearing. You can, of course, continue to limit contact with her for now. Or if you do choose to spend time with her, deftly (and kindly) steer the conversation toward another topic, such as what manager Joe Maddon can do to help the Chicago Cubs’ underperforming bullpen, for instance.
I hope this helps.
Dear Ann Cannon • My son, who’s finishing his freshman year in college, just broke up with his high school sweetheart. He’s the one who drove the breakup and I know she feels terrible about it. Here’s my problem: I’ve known this girl for years and I really do love her and I know she considers me a second mother. I realize it’s probably not a bad thing for both my son and his ex-girlfriend to date other people, but I’m sad she won’t be a part of our lives — at least for the foreseeable future. Where do I go from here?
— Sad Mama
Dear Sad Mama • You’re in a tough spot for sure. I’m sorry. You don’t mention the reasons why your son broke things off — and now that I think about it, they don’t matter much anyway. Unless you believe in arranged marriages, your son has the right to run his own romantic relationships in whatever way he sees fit.
So where does this leave you and his ex-girlfriend? As long as your son doesn’t object, you could still acknowledge important events in her life like a birthday or a graduation by sending her a card. And, of course, whenever you run into each other, greet her with the warmth you’ve shown her in the past. At the same time, I think it would be a mistake to get in the middle of whatever happened between your son and his ex-girlfriend by encouraging her to confide in you, even if she’s done so in the past.
It’s sometimes a sad reality that when our children cut certain people out of their lives, they cut them out of our lives, too. Wishing all of you the best of luck.